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How to keep tabs on cardiovascular disease?

21 Jan 2020 • 6 comments

We take you on a exploration of lipid anomalies, blood sugar levels, and ways to monitor blood pressure, weight, and blood work. Read our guide to discover how the progression of cardiovascular diseases is measured and understand what needs to be done after a test.

How to keep tabs on cardiovascular disease?

The tests presented below are important for keeping tabs on cardiovascular disease in general, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, irregular heartbeat or stable angina. Still, every condition is different and should be monitored by a doctor. 

Keeping an eye on cardiovascular risk factors

Lipid Profile (LP)

A Lipid Profile is a biological examination that is regularly conducted to detect cardiovascular disease. Dyslipidemia (which includes high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides in the blood) is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A typical blood test will look for levels of:

Total Cholesterol 4.10 – 5.20 mmol/L 1.6 – 2.0 g/L
Triglycerides 0.40 – 1.70 mmol/L 0.35 – 1.50 g/L
HDL Cholesterol > 1 mmol/L > 0.40 g/L
LDL Cholesterol < 4.1 mmol/L < 1.60 g/L

+ To be done on an empty stomach

These tests should be conducted "fasted" ( patient has consumed no food or drink for at least 12 hours), and at least once a year as a safeguard. The above values are those of a patient with normal levels and no risk factors. If the patient presents risk factors, the target values will depend on the level of cardiovascular risk.

Why take this test?
It allows your physician to catch any dyslipidemia, evaluate your cardiovascular risks, and monitor the patient they're treating.

Fasted blood sugar levels & glycated haemoglobin

You should get your blood sugar and glycated haemoglobin levels tested at least once to check for diabetes risks or 2 to 4 times a year for a patient who is already diabetic (to make sure the diabetes is under control and responding to treatment). You'll need to take a "fasted" blood test:

Glucose 3.90 – 5.50 mmol/L 0.70 – 1.00 g/L
Haemoglobin A1c / Total haemoglobin < 0.06
< 0.07
< 6% in a healthy subject
< 7% in a diabetic patient or patient with known risk factors

Why take this test?
Having diabetes greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Blood pressure test

A healthy level would be around 140 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 90 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure, or 140/90 mmHg at together.

Getting these numbers just once does not mean your blood pressure is fine. To make sure, you should measure your blood pressure several times and in the following conditions:

- Sitting quietly for 5 minutes before testing

- Taking 3 consecutive measures with at least one minute between tests

- Abstaining from tobacco or stimulants (coffee, tea, etc.) for 30 minutes to 1 hour before the test

- Noting all the results obtained

- Testing your blood pressure three days before visiting your doctor

Only a doctor can say for sure if you have high blood pressure after running a series of additional tests.

Why take this test?
High blood pressure is a chronic condition and a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. It's very important to regularly monitor your blood pressure levels.

Measuring weight and waist circumference

Measuring your weight and waist circumference will allow you to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI):

Underweight < 18.5
Normal 18.5 < IMC < 25
Overweight 25 < IMC < 30
Moderately Obese 30 < IMC < 35
Severely Obese 35 < IMC < 40
Morbidly Obese > 40

As a general rule of thumb, waist circumference should be no more than 94 cm (37 inches) for men and 80cm (31 inches) for women.

Why do this test?
Being overweight or obese are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease. If you find yourself rapidly gaining weight over a short period of time (a few days or weeks) it may be due to the presence of oedemas which could be a sign of decompensated heart failure. You should see your doctor immediately.

Monitoring your blood work after diagnosis

A specific marker: BNP (Brain Natriuretic Peptide)

BNP plays an important role in diagnosis, prognosis and treatment in patients suspected of suffering from heart failure as this neuro-hormone is produced by the body in response to raised blood pressure and particularly in the case of heart failure.

BNP < 100 pg/mL 100 < BNP < 400 pg/mL BNP > 400 pg/mL
Heart failure unlikely. Physician should test for other conditions Uncertain. Physician should order a diagnostic ultrasound Heart failure likely. Patient should be hospitalised.

Note: patients on ENTRESTO, should test for NT-proBNP and not BNP whose value will not be interpretable.

Why take this test?
To catch heart failure at its earliest stages.

Monitoring effects of treatments

The treatments used to control cardiovascular disease need to be regularly monitored, biological exams should especially be conducted on haematological (blood), renal (kidneys) and hepatic (liver) functions, to make sure the treatments are not provoking serious side effects.

INR (International Normalized Ratio)

To medically treat cardiovascular disease, a patient may be directed to take blood thinners or platelet inhibitors. However, this increases the patient's risk of internal bleeding. This is why it's very important to test INR before and during a new treatment, especially for vitamin K antagonists (VKA) and Unfractionated Heparins.

Treatment is safe when INR levels are between 2 and 4.5 on two consecutive tests. If INR levels are between 4.5 and 6, the patient's GP should be immediately alerted so as to reduce the dosage or change the treatment entirely. If INR levels are at 6 or above, the patient is at serious risk for haemorrhaging and should be hospitalised and taken off treatment.

Why take this test?
To monitor and treat if necessary the side effects of certain treatments.

Kidney function & electrolytes

The following should be monitored:

Hommes Se or Pl Creatinine 60 – 115 µmol/L 7 – 13 mg/L
Femmes Se or Pl Creatinine 45 – 105 µmol/L 5 – 12 mg/L
Hommes dU Creatinine 10 – 18 mmol 1100 – 2000 mg
Femmes dU Creatinine 9 – 12 µmol/L 1000 – 1350 mg/L
/ Renal creatinine clearance 1.50 – 2.30 mL/s 90 – 140 mL/min
/ Pl Sodium 135 – 145 mmol/L /
/ Pl Potassium 3.5 – 4.5 mmol/L /

The values indicated above are typical values. This test is particularly important if the treatment includes diuretics (such as FUROSEMIDE, HYDROCHLOROTHIAZIDE, SPIRONOLACTONE).

Liver function & enzymes

The following should be monitored :

  Men Women
ALT < 45 UI/L < 34 UI/L
AST < 35 UI/L < 35 UI/L
CK < 171 UI/L < 145 UI/L
Haemoglobin 130 – 170 g/L 120 – 160 g/L

Why take these tests?
The degradation of liver or kidney functions can cause problems, even serious ones because medications will no longer be correctly metabolised or eliminated: this increases the risk of overdose and toxicity for the patient, with intensified side-effects. These parameters should be check at least once or twice a year.

Other tests

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This exam traced onto paper reflects the heart's electrical activity. It should be done by a trained professional around once a year to monitor heart activity and detect any potential irregular heartbeats which could have serious consequences for someone with a weak heart. It's painless and risk-free. It's part of a clinical exam and may be accompanied by an echocardiography.

Cardiac stress test (or exercise test)

This test allows a doctor to measure the cardiovascular aptitudes of a person suffering from cardiovascular issues or may be part of a clinical cardiovascular exam. It's especially recommended for persons who regularly practise intense athletic activity or for sedentary individuals above a certain age who want to begin practising a sport. It generally lasts between 10 and 30 minutes and is conducted by a cardiologist.

Other exams

Other more specialised exams may be called for to explore cardiac functions such as a scintigraphy, a myocardial scintigraphy or a coronagraphy. A clinical exam is also very important, whether for diagnosing or monitoring cardiovascular disease. If you have a persistent cough, find yourself unexpectedly getting out of breath, unusually tired, or if you're getting heart palpitations, regular headaches or oedemas (this list is not exhaustive), see your GP.

--

Warning, this article is meant as an overview and not medical advice. It does not take into account variations among individual patients . Every patient is different and should consult their doctor before making any changes to their treatment!

Article written by Camille Dauvergne, 4th year pharmacy student, reviewed by Louise Bollecker, Carenity Content Manager.

avatar Camille Dauvergne

Author: Camille Dauvergne, Junior Community Manager France

Camille Dauvergne is currently a Junior Community Manager at Carenity. She assists the France Community Manager in animating the platform, easing member navigation of the site and encouraging them to interact. Camille also participated in writing scientific articles published on the Health Magazine, as well as updating illness and medication fact sheets.

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Comments

on 23/01/2020

Hi Camille

I hope this message finds you in good health? 

What a very informative article?  I think that a lot of 'potential' sufferers may take note and visit their GP?? 

I have regular blood tests every two weeks for my use of Methotrexate, my liver function is sometimes a cause for concern as a direct result of taking the drug. It also checks for a multitude of things? A list of 12 in all, so my blood work is kept up to date so I can sleep at nights. I am Diabetic so I take my Glycaemic values at least 4 times a day, and so adjust my Insulin intake. Consultant says 'very well controlled'. I take my Blood pressure at least once a week to keep an eye on things, it's usually around 124/80 - 115/65.

All in all I am pretty well up together with my health??? I think??? Unless you know differently???...lol...lol 

Take Care Young Lady

Kind Regards  Richard 

on 24/01/2020

Lots of interesting information to play with to give an idea of the norms to be expected. But what to do if your blood pressure is very low and when/where to call in help would be useful. GPs tend to be dismissive of using your own equipment but I have a good range including an ECG machine to assist me. There are some great ones that fit a PC and no doubt mobiles with a self diagnostic facility to indicate issues. Blood tests are strictly for health professionals but interpreting such results can be useful.

on 24/01/2020

I had blood tests last year in August and when I received the results I was told my BNP levels are extremely high at 1221, I'm 47 years old and was told I needed an URGENT appointment to see a heart failure consultant, we are now nearly at the end of January and I'm still waiting for that URGENTLY needed appointment 

on 24/01/2020

@Hidden username‍ 

I have never heard something so ridiculous. BNP as high as that, if your cardiologist has not seen you yet, your GP who sent you for the blood test should have contacted a cardiologist for advice and done some further investigations such as ECG, Echocardiogram, Holter monitor recordings for 72 hours continuous ECG Do you have any symptoms such as breathlessness, swollen ankles puffy eyes?  Are you on Diuretics? have you got a diagnosed Heart condition? Have you tried going to A&E and telling them the very raised level of BNP? May be your BNP is not related to cardiac condition, because some times that is the case. How ever you should be investigated to find out the cause. Has your BNP been repeated since August to see if it has come down. I suppose you must have looked up on internet. I did because my husband's BNP is raised. Just typed in Causes of raised BNP and there is a lot of information there. If you haven't already read it, it would be worth reading it I would be interested to know your outcome. Good luck

on 26/01/2020

Thank you for interesting information.

I have regular blood tests every 3 - 6 months or more often through my GP. Due to the extent of medications I am on, he keeps good control of my cholesterol, high blood pressure, epilepsy and other health conditions. My last blood tests revealed low haemoglobin but I was recently in an accident as a pedestrian and hit by a panel van whilst crossing a road. The doctor puts this down to the massive hit on the knee, but will be doing more blood tests in 2 weeks to check it. 

During recent pre-assessments I've regularly had ECG's done; no complaints yet so far according to their results.

I'm on a new epilepsy medication by the name of Vimpat, which is causing many distressing side effects as well as palpitations. This has been ongoing for approximately  3 months now and I will be requesting a change when I see my Neurologist in February. At the moment I take Atenolol for high blood pressure so am concerned about palpitations etc.

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